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THE SPIRIT WAS THERE, BUT ... by The Oracle For once, things were going well for the Melbourne Football Club. A major announcement was made at the President's luncheon - another sponsorship (German car manufacturer Opel) to help fill the retinue of sponsors after Webjet and Hertz jumped on board to more than fill the void left by the dismissal of a previously disgraced company which apparently still owes the club money. Then, a moving tribute to the legendary Jim Stynes so that when it was over the majority crowd of Demon fans was thirsting for not just a better performance from their team but a win. Only a victory could do justice for this day. There was one man who typified Melbourne on the day and fittingly, he wore the number of the crowd's hero for the day. Big, strong and solid at full forward Mitch Clark marked and goaled for the Demons but he was also part of a procession of players whose shots at goal from straight in front missed their mark. You don't expect Clark, Jeremy Howe and Jack Watts to all miss from dead in front. At the other end, the Western Bulldogs made the most of the opportunities that presented themselves. A couple of snaps from angles, a gimme free and lo and behold, they led at the first break by nine points even though they had one shot less. It's useless to bemoan bad fortune when you fail in the game's most fundamental of skills but, when the final result is a 21-point defeat, then the poor conversion rate really hurts. The trend really did continue throughout the game although when the team momentarily straightened up for a few third quarter goals, the difference in conversion was no more pronounced. Melbourne had inched its way back to trail by a solitary point and the scoreboard read - Melbourne 7.10.52 to Western Bulldogs 8.5.53. The Dogs steadied at that point - thanks to errors committed by both Demon players, some inexperienced umpiring and some great snap shots at goal. It all came back to haunt Melbourne late in the third term and it could have been much worse when Mitch Clark crashed to the earth neck first. Fortunately, he must have had Jimmy and those magnificent recuperative powers smiling down on him because, to the relief and amazement of the crowd, he got up, walked off the ground and was later cleared after scans taken in hospital. This was the epitome of what generations of Demon fans had come to know as the Stynes spirit but the current number 11 was still subbed off and the team's balance was awry for the remainder of the game. The spirit might have been there but it was not enough. The Dogs managed enough successful snaps at goal to make it their day while misses from Colin Garland and Lynden Dunn in the middle of the final term put paid to any chances of a late game resurgence. But it wasn't just the poor conversion rate in front of goal that proved damaging for the Demons. They were at times painfully excruciating to watch as they botched up straight forward kicks and handballs, often gifting away possession to the opposition and sometimes when not under the slightest amount of pressure. These gifts were enough to allow the Western Bulldogs their maiden victory. At least there was a turnaround in effort which was maintained for close on the full four quarters and with a few handy players due to return from injury and suspension, perhaps things might continue to improve for the otherwise hapless Demons. Melbourne 1.5.11 3.8.26 7.10.52 9.13.67 Western Bulldogs 3.2.20 6.5.41 10.7.67 13.10.88 Goals Melbourne Bate Davey 2 Bail Clark Moloney Morton Watts Western Bulldogs Cooney Giansiracusa Grant 2 Dahlhaus Djerrkura Griffen Jones Roughead Sherman Wallis Best Melbourne Rivers Bate Moloney Jone Magner Jamar Western Bulldogs Dahlhaus Murphy Cooney Cross, Wallis Djerrkura Injuries Melbourne Mitch Clark (head/neck) Western Bulldogs Nil Changes Melbourne Nil Western Bulldogs Nil Reports Melbourne Nil Western Bulldogs Nil Umpires Wenn Bannister and some other joker Crowd 33,565 at MCG